Pop-Tarts, United Way grant will help us build a sustainable vegetable garden at our school

By Sara Velasco and Cindy Fu, Students, Wellington (Ohio) High School

When we saw last September that Pop-Tarts and United Way were offering grant money through their “Unwrap the Future” contest, we knew it was the perfect chance to bring our idea to life.

The contest asked young people between the ages of 13 and 22 to submit proposals via written story, video or illustrations – anything creative – for how we would use a $2,500 grant to address an issue in our community, like food insecurity or mental health.

So, we submitted our proposal for a new sustainable vegetable garden at our high school in Wellington, Ohio – and we won! We were one of 20 proposals selected to receive a grant and, as you’ll see in the list below, there are so many worthy ideas that now have the opportunity to become reality.

The need in Wellington

Central Ohio, where we’re located, wastes a lot of land per year on food production because of food waste.

Think about it: every time a person throws a piece of food in the trash, all of the energy (literally and figuratively) it took to produce that food goes to waste. This is a big problem for our environment.

According to National Geographic, “Agriculture already uses half of the world’s vegetated land. It consumes 90 percent of all the water used by humanity and generates one-quarter of the annual global emissions that are causing global warmings.”

Yet – poof – millions of harvested acres go to waste.

We have to stop this.

Our plan

Our “Unwrap the Future” grant will allow us to help our school purchase compost bins, composters and all the materials we need to build our garden. We will take the food waste generated in our school cafeteria, compost it, then use it as fertilizer in the new school garden to help grow hearty, nutritious vegetables that the cafeteria can use in its meals.

The idea is what’s called a “circular economy,” which produces zero waste.

In addition to eliminating waste and growing sustainable food, the garden will also offer a tangible opportunity to teach our fellow classmates and their families about food waste and the benefits of a circular economy.

We’d like to thank Kellogg, the Pop-Tarts brand and United Way for this opportunity. We’ve learned that Kellogg has a commitment to create Better Days for 3 billion people by 2030, so we’re proud and excited to join the other winners below to help make that happen.

Meet the winners!

  • Lila Shelton, 13, Monroe County, Pa. – Providing warm blankets for more than 250 families in need during the winter
  • Lydia Gow, 13, Cromwell, Ind. – Using the money to purchase a special needs swing and sensory equipment such as balls and drums for Cromwell Park
  • Anusha Bansal, 15, Livingston, N.J. – Developing a peer-to-peer digital literary and arts magazine for those ages 7-22 in New Jersey to creatively express views and analysis via literary and visual arts forms on topics related to diversity & culture, history, socio economics and the planet
  • Maryann Harrington, 16, and Tal Waide, 16, Monroe County, Pa. – Purchasing an LCD projector, screen and iPad for local nursing home so residents may safely converse with friends and family across the country during the pandemic
  • Rochelle Mosley, 16, Brentwood, Calif. – Helping to support a free online tutoring service for local students through The Learning Community Project
  • Allyson Pack-Adair, 16, Litchfield Park, Ariz. – Creating and distributing customized care packages for anyone ages 13-15 in Arizona that has been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening disease
  • Santiago Churion, 17, Monroe County, Pa. – Expanding a peer tutoring program to help more students and provide iPads for the technology lending library
  • Myasia Goode, 17, Richmond, Va. – Creating a free fresh food community garden in her community
  • Mariah Lopez, 17, Stockton, Calif. – Providing hygiene products for area homeless high-school students
  • Jacy Orthaus, 17, Florence, S.D. –  Creating a welcome basket detailing local community information for new residents of the small town of Florence, SD
  • Avalee Goodman, 18, Kalamazoo, Mich. – Building local Community Coat Closet; a place where families can donate gently used coats and others can pick up a free winter coat to brave the cold Michigan winter
  • Jocelynn Marr, 18, Elizabethton, Tenn. – Creating a social media and awareness campaign to support men’s mental health
  • Jailen Stockdale, 20, Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Creating a productive community space where local young people can spark their creative ideas and develop their passions.
  • Nathaly Macias, 20, Los Angeles, Calif. – Providing small gifts of appreciation to the young people attending theater classes at 24th Street Theatre
  • Kristina Bullington, 21, Santa Cruz, Calif. –  Expanding an education initiative that provides digital workforce development skills and emotional intelligence classes for incarcerated students in hopes of reducing recidivism in Santa Cruz, CA
  • Zacahry Ramos, 21, Santa Nella, Calif. – Supporting the Gustine Main Street Beautification Project, which includes the beautification and refurbishing of the exterior of businesses along Main Street as well as planting new flowers
  • Morgan Fielder, 21, Goffstown, N.H. – Providing winter coats and other needed cold-weather clothes to those in need
  • Aleah LaForce, 22, Brooklyn, N.Y. – Renovating the basement, kitchen and storage space for Playground Youth, a community-based organization operating out of Playground Coffee Shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
  • McKenzie Dalton, 22, Canal Fulton, Ohio – Creating a productive community space where local young people can spark their creative ideas and develop their passions

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